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Heart Aflame - May 23, 2010

Psalm 60

Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man.  Again David reverts to the exercise of prayer, or rather is led to it  naturally by the very confidence of hope, which we have seen that it entertained.  He expresses his conviction, that should God extend his help, it would be sufficient of itself, although no assistance should be received from any other quarter.  It is as if he had said, "Oh God, when pleased to put forth your might, you need no one to help you; and when, therefore, once assured of an interest in your favour, there is no reason why we should desire the aid of man.  All other resources of a worldly nature vanish before the brigtness of your power."

Why is it almost universally the case with men that they are either staggered in their resolution, or bouy themselves up with confidences, vain, because not derived from God, but just because they have no apprehension of that salvation which he can extend, which is of itself sufficient, and without which, any earthly succour is entirely ineffectual?  God, in accomplishing our preservation, may use the agency of man, but he reserves it to himself, as his pecular prerogative, to deliver, and will not suffer them to rob him of his glory.  The deliverance which comes to us in this manner through human agency must properly be ascribed to God.  All that David meant to assert is, that such confidences as are not derived from God are worthless and in vain.  And to confirm this position he declares in the last verse of the psalm, that as, on the one hand, we can do nothing without him, so, on the other, we can do all things by his help.

Through God we shall do valiantly:  for it is he that shall tread down our enemies.  If God withdraw his favour, any supposed strength which is in man will soon fail; but those whose sufficiency is derived from God only are armed with courage to overcome every difficulty.  Even in our controversty with creatures like ourselves, we are not at liberty to share the honour of success with God; and yet it not be accounted greater sacrilege still when men set free will in opposition to divine grace, and speak of their concurring equally with God in the matter of procuring external salvation?  Those who arrogate the least fraction of strength to themselves apart from God, only ruin themselves through their own pride


Warfield Wednesday

B.B. Warfield talks about Scripture as a redemptive act of God:

Scripture is conceived, from the point of view of the writers of the New Testament, not merely as the record of revelations, but as itself a part of the redemptive revelation of God; not merely as the record of the redemptive acts by which God is saving the world, but as itself one of these redemptive acts, having its own part to play in the great work of establishing and building up the kingdom of God.  What gives it a place among the redemptive acts of God is its Divine origination, taken in its widest sense, as inclusive of all the Divine operations, providential, gracious and expressly supernatural, by which it has been made just what it is - a body of writings able to make wise unto salvation, and profitable for making the man of God perfect.  What gives it its place among the modes of revelation is, however, specifically the culminating one of these Divine operations, which we call "Inspiration;" that is to say, the action of the Spirit of God in so "bearing" its human authors in their work of producing Scripture, as that in these Scripture they speak, not out of themselves, but "from God."  It is this act by virtue of which the Scripture may properly be called "God-breathed."


The Puritans and the Lord's Day

Many of us can remember a time when stores and businesses closed on Sunday.   Certainly, hospitals were open, and police officers worked, but at one time, people didn't really shop on Sunday.  I can remember that myself.  The Puritans were influential in establishing -- in the English churches, anyway -- the principle of ceasing from work, shopping,  and entertainment on Sunday.

The Puritans agreed with the Reformers and Augustine with the teaching regarding the end of the Jewish Sabbath.   The Sabbath was a Jewish ceremony which foreshadowed the "rest" we would have in Christ, and once Christ came, the Jewish Sabbath, with its Levitical ordinances was not longer required.  However, the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, became the day for worship and remembrance for what Christ had done.  The Reformers, though, did not really see it as a priority to make Sunday much different, and did not speak out against things such as gaming and entertainment on a Sunday.  The Puritans, on the other hand, took the teaching further.

 Packer says:

although the Reformers were right to see a merely typical and temporary significance in certain of the detailed prescriptions of the Jewish Sabbath, yet the principle of one day's rest for public and private worship of God at the end of each six days' work was a law of creation, made for man as such, and therefore binding upon man as long as he lives in the world.

The Puritans were reminded that the establishment of a day of rest began in Genesis, and was a memorial of creation.  As the Puritans undertook this teaching, it had an effect on the wider culture, and the Lord's Day became different from the remaining days of the week.

Matthew Henry describes the Lord's Day in this way.  The Sabbath:

is a sacred and divine institution; but we must receive and embrace it as a privilege and a benefit, not as a task and a drudgery.  First, God never designed it to be an imposition upon us, and therefore we must not make it so to ourserlves... Secondly, God did design it to be an advantage to us, and we must make and improve it...The sabbath was made a day of rest, only in order to its being a day of holy work, a day of communion with God, a day of praise and thanksgiving; and the rest from worldly business is therefore necessary, that we may closely apply ourselves to this work, and spend the whole time in it, in private and public.

To these points, Packer adds a few other reminders.  The Sabbath means action, not inaction.  It was not meant for idleness.  I wonder what that means for the three or four hour nap we may have on Sundays.  When the kids were younger, I used to nap regularly on Sunday, but I don't anymore.  The Sabbath also should be a time for joyful feasting and rejoicing.  It is a means of grace.

Packer wisely points out that preparing our hearts for the Lord's Day is important.  He says:

Preparing the heart is the most important matter of all, for the Lord's Day is pre-eminently 'a day for heart-work.'  From this point of view, the battle for Sunday is usually won or lost on the foregoing Saturday night, when time should be set aside for self-examination, confession and prayer for the coming day.... The last rule for prepration comes from the supremely practical mind of Richard Baxter:  'Go seasonably to bed, that you may not be sleepy on the Lord's Day.'

I thought about this whole issue of preparing for worship.  Here in North America, Saturday night is generally a night for fun and frivolity.  People like to go out on a Saturday night, often making it hard to get up the next morning.  If we ever have any youth events on a Saturday night, we try to be finished by 10:00 to make sure that we aren't contributing to fatigue the next morning.  Our church has two services in the morning, one at 8:30 and one at 11:00.  We make a habit of attending the early service simply because it leaves more of an afternoon for family time.  I think it's a good idea to at least make an attempt to avoid staying up on Saturday night into the wee small hours in order to prepare.  It's hard, though, because the young adult crowd tends to do that.  I remember hearing one story about how a young adult at our church had a gathering on Saturday night that went until roughly 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning.  The crowd was at the 11:00 service, but then most of them went home on Sunday afternoon and slept.  The Sunday Nap has become rather a feature of the Christian life.  Packer does remind, however, that we cannot become legalistic about these things.

The Lord's Day, which ought to be centered around public and private worship, also must be family-centered.  Ideally, it is the father who is to be responsible for getting the family involved in this.  Of course, when one has an unbelieving father, or if a father has a job that demands he work on Sunday, that may not always be possible.  But if a man is a professed believer, and is not prevented, he should be diligent with ensuring that his family observes the Lord's Day.  Packer says this:

The principle here is that the man of the house has an inalienable responsibility to care for the souls of the household, and that it is on the Lord's Day supremely that he must exercise it.  The Puritan pastor, unlike his modern counterpart, did not scheme to reach the men through the women an the children, but vice versa.  Was he not perhaps wiser, and more scriptural too?

I guess we here in North America, may tend to sloth with regard to the Lord's Day becase we may take it for granted.  If we were restricted with regard to public worship, we may feel differently.  I think, though, that it must be something terribly important to us.  I know two ladies who are fairly new Christians (both married to unbelieving men) who take each and every opportunity to be in church simply because they desire the fellowship of God's people.  We should definitely share the attitude of Matthew Henry, by seeing the Lord's Day as one for rejoicing.


Heart Aflame - May 16, 2010

Psalm 53

Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who doe good, not even one.  David declares that all men are so carried away by their capricious lusts, that nothing is to be found either of purity or integrity in thir whole life.  He not only censures a portion of the peole, but pronounces them all to be equally involved in the same condition.  But it might be asked, how David makes no exception, not even one, when, nevertheless, he informs us a little after, that the poor and afflicted put their trust in God?  Again, it might be asked, if all were wicked, who was that Israel whose future redemption he celebrates in the end of the psalm?  No, as he himself was one of the body of that people why does he not at least except himself?  The answer is:  It is against the carnal and degenerate body of the Israelitish nation that he here inveighs, and the small number constituting the seed which God had set apart for himself is not included among them.  This is the reason why Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, 3:10, extends this sentence to all mankind ("There is no one righteous, not even one.")  David, it is true, deplores the disordered and desolate state of matters under the regin of Saul.  At the same time, however, he doubtless makes a comparison between the children of God and all who have not been regenerated by the Spirit, but are carried away according to the inclinations of their flesh.  The subject which Paul reasons upon is not, what is the character of the greater part of men, but what is the character of all who are led and governed by their own corrupt nature.  It is, therefore, to be observed, that when Daid places himself and the small remnant of the godly on one side, and puts on hte other side of the body of the people, in general, this implies that there is a manifest difference between the children of God who are created anew by his Spirit, and all the posterity of Adam, in whom corruption and depravity exercise dominion.  Only God can make us new creatues by his mysterious grace.


The "special" Christian 

My friend and I are reading together through Lloyd-Jones's Studies on the Sermon on the Mount.  We have finished the first of the two volume work.  We just finished reading about Matthew 5:43-48, and specifically about v. 47.

Lloyd-Jones talks about what makes the Christian "special."  My friend and I talked about that word, and how it has become abused.  To Lloyd-Jones, that word may not have carried the same kind of baggage as it does today.  Today, everyone is special.   Recently, there was a community-wide day of service for the less fortunate conducted by one of the local evangelical churches in my town.  Other churches, including mine, were involved.  There was a "Princess Tea" for about 200 mothers and their daughters.  Each little girl who attended was given a tiara.  There was a brief address to the crowd there, where the little girls were told that they were all "special."  In the words of Inigo Montoya, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

If everyone is special, then, that word doesn't apply any longer.  I think when Lloyd-Jones used that word, he used it as it was meant to be used, unlike the rather easy way we throw it around today.  Anyway, I know what he's getting at, and as my friend and I read, we benefitted greatly from this chapter where Lloyd-Jones compares the natural man and the Christian man.   I liked this:

What is it that makes the Christian a special person?  What is it that accounts for this uniqueness?  What makes him do more than others?  It is his whole outlook on sin.  The Christian man has seen himself as utterly hopeless and condemned; he has seen himself as a man who is utterly guilty before God and who has no claim whatsoever on His love.  He has seen himself as an enemy of God and an outsider.  And then he has seen and understood something about the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.  He has seen God sending His only bogotten Son into the World, and not only that, sending Him even to the death of the cross for him, the rebel, the vile and guilty sinner.  God did not turn His back on him, He went beyond that.  The Christian knows that all this happened for him, and it has changed his whole attitude towards God and to his fellowmen.  He has been forgiven when he did not deserve it.  What right then has he, not to forgive his enemy?

What makes a Christian different from anyone else is this realization of sin and forgiveness.  The more we see the gravity of our sin, the more thankful for His grace we will be.